Here’s my latest for Northwest Asian Weekly:
NWAW’s December must-reads
By Samrat Upadhyay
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
“Buddha’s Orphans” is a love story between Raja, an orphan boy whose mother drowned herself when he was a baby, and Nilu, a girl born into privilege.
Although he was deserted at a young age, Raja does not grow up neglected and unloved. In fact, the people in his life go to great lengths for him. Raja is found by a homeless man in Tundikhel, an open public space in Kathmandu, Nepal. Raja spends the first few years of his life living on the streets with Bokey Ba, the homeless man who found him.
Kaki, a woman who sells corn on the streets, helps raise the boy. She eventually adopts him as her son when her own grown son throws her out of his house.
Told from the point of view of those around him, readers watch as Raja grows from the young orphan boy, fought over by various parties who want to claim him as their son, into a young man who throws himself right into the political fray of his country.
And through it all is Nilu, whom he met while living as a servant in her family’s home. Despite her privileged life, it is clear that Nilu has struggled as much as Raja has. In some cases, Nilu has it worse. Her father died when she was young and her mother leaves her because of alcohol and drugs.
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